The student news site of Carlisle High School

Periscope

Did You Know?
  • May 6Good Luck to Students Taking any AP Exams!
  • May 1Seniors Last Day Is In Sight! Keep Going!
The student news site of Carlisle High School

Periscope

The student news site of Carlisle High School

Periscope

Staff Profile
Alex Landis
Alex Landis
Student Life Editor

Sigh, Not Gone: Phuc Tran Visits CHS Creative Writing Classes

BACK+TO+THE+FUTURE%3A+Phuc+Tran+stands+at+the+front+of+Ms.+Clayvilles+classroom+discussing+his+involvement+in+Periscope+in+high+school.+This+was+the+first+time+he+had+been+back+in+the+halls+of+CHS%2C+decades+later.+
Ryleigh Underwood
BACK TO THE FUTURE: Phuc Tran stands at the front of Ms. Clayville’s classroom discussing his involvement in Periscope in high school. This was the first time he had been back in the halls of CHS, decades later.

It’s not every day that CHS is paid a visit from an award winning writer and Carlisle alumnus, but just last month Vietnamese-American Author, Phuc Tran, stopped by Ms. Clayville’s Creative Writing classes on his way to the Harrisburg Book Festival.

Tran is currently a professor, father, and tattoo artist living in Maine. He is best known for his debut novel Sigh, Gone: A Misfit’s Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In, released in 2020 about his life growing up as a Vietnamese immigrant in Carlisle in the 1980s. 

The memoir has quickly gained popularity throughout CHS, many finding nostalgia and relatability within its pages. Clayville’s students were very excited to meet Tran, many coming prepared with a plethora of questions which he answered with witty anecdotes and advice.

Naturally, the topic of writing consumed most of the time spent with the author. When students asked him how to be a successful writer, Tran advised them to “work on your craft before worrying about your reach. Success will come, so focus on your art first.”

He followed this statement by explaining that “good writing strives for clarity.”

This sentiment is ever-present in Tran’s writing. His memoir includes deeply personal stories from throughout his life with a particularly prominent regarding his evolving relationship with his parents as he comes of age. He doesn’t shy away from divulging details about the mental and physical abuse he suffered at the hands of his father in the novel, leading many to question what his fathers reaction was to the book’s release.

“My dad wasn’t very receptive to the novel. He called it ‘painful’,” Tran explained. “He said that he didn’t like the book, but it was my story to tell,” he finished.

Tran went on to explain that despite his estranged relationship to his parents, he does recognize their growth as people, and that he included those stories in his work to preserve the integrity of his memoir as his own. 

Deciding to write Sigh, Gone in the first place was a long process, defined by a domino effect of small endeavors by Tran. First he was approached by a friend to do a Tedx Talk, then he began participating in local radio story-telling hours, and the idea of writing a memoir was planted in his mind. Later, in 2016, a literary agent that had seen his TedTalk reached out and asked if he would be interested in writing a memoir. Though hesitant at first, he accepted the offer explaining, “I would rather try something new and be terrible at it then never try it all.”

He ended up publishing the book in early 2020 after compiling a laundry list of memories to detail in his narrative. “My main goal was that I wanted to write the book that only I could write,” he added when explaining his writing process. 

Tran’s personality permeates every page of his novel through his conversational tone and shameless humor. One of the best examples of this is his memoirs title, Sigh, Gone, which pays homage to his birthplace of Sài Gòn, Việt Nam, the same city where the Việt Nam War ended in 1975. As a result of this war, many families uprooted their entire lives and sought refuge in foreign nations like China and the United States. Immigration, especially from a country stricken with war, is an incredibly traumatic experience that impacts individuals and families for their entire lives.

Phuc Tran poses with some of the students in attendance of his presentation. He left a note of advice for any misfits who may need it: “Be kind to yourself and be curious; be open to change. Don’t be so hard on yourself.” (Ryleigh Underwood)

Despite traveling to Carlisle at barely two years old, and being raised in a country that was not very welcoming to Asian immigrants, Tran has made a remarkable effort to not let his struggles define him. As written in the title of the memoir, Tran found solace in the punk rock movement of the 1980s, embracing his differences and asserting his position as the only student wearing an Addams Family t-shirt on the Quiz Bowl team. 

Before the punk rock rebellion of his teen years, Tran famously became enamored with the Star Wars films. Not only were the movies pervasive to the cultural zeitgeist of America at the time, they created a safe space for young Phuc Tran. Naturally, he built his brand around Star Wars, and discusses it quite heavily in Sigh, Gone. In the novel, he expresses a great love for the character, Luke Skywalker, but when asked who his favorite character was now, he enthusiastically responded, “Obi-Wan Kenobi.”

From science fiction films to angsty electric guitar melodies, Tran’s love of art knows no bounds. Continuously defying the status quo, he began a tattoo business in 2003 before his blossoming literary career. While it is not discussed in his novel, tattooing has a significant place in his life, his own arms being decorated in colorful dragons. Curious about the swing from academics to artistry, students asked him what got him interested in the field. He attributes his interest in tattoos to his friends, punk rock, and the comedy surrounding tattoo shops growing up in Carlisle. “My friend, who I call Liam in the book, paid for his tattoo with a toaster oven,” he said. 

The touching, hilarious, and heartfelt stories in Sigh, Gone: A Misfit’s Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In, in tandem with Phuc Tran’s valuable insight, have made him an icon not only in Carlisle, but also across the nation. His anecdotes culminate into a narrative that represents thousands of adolescents that struggle with their self-identity and everyday hardships, with CHS students having a particular inclination towards the novel and author due to it’s specificity. Needless to say, CHS was elated to welcome Phuc Tran back into its halls to introduce a new generation of misfits to the ink stained world of tattoos and composition.

Leave a Comment
Donate to Periscope
$215
$500
Contributed
Our Goal

Want to help the Herd? Please consider supporting the Periscope program. Your donation will support the student journalists of CHS and allow us to purchase equipment, send students to workshops/camps, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
About the Contributors
Jenna Coller
Jenna Coller, Editor-in-Chief
Jenna is a senior at CHS and this is her third year on Staff. She loves reading and her favorite books are Normal People by Sally Rooney and The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Jenna has an affinity for music and lyricism, her favorite artists being Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey, and Pheobe Bridgers. She is excited to be returning as editor-in-chief this year alongside her classmates Hannah and Ryleigh.
Ryleigh Underwood
Ryleigh Underwood, Editor-in-Chief
Ryleigh Underwood is a senior at CHS and this is their fourth year on the Periscope staff. They are the manager of CHS's improv troupe, Wingin' It, the poetry representative and photographer for Coffeehouse, and a member of NEHS and NAHS. Ryleigh also represents the Carlisle Area School District in SEPA (Students for Education in PA) and is very active within the education community. They look forward to working with the new staff and graduating with Periscope in good hands.
Donate to Periscope
$215
$500
Contributed
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All comments will be approved by the website moderator. Comments containing inappropriate language will not be approved.
All Periscope Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *